From slurry to chemical and organic fertiliser, spreading is now underway on many Irish farms. When planning and carrying out these tasks, there are a number of elements farmers must consider.

In the planning stage, farmers must decide what fertiliser to use, the rate of application and when to spread. With lots of factors coming into play, farmers must keep safety a priority.

High Risk Job

Spreading fertiliser is a high risk farm job as it is highly mechanised. Annual statistics from the HSA show that there were 12 fatalities in 2021 from loss of control from a vehicle or its attachments. Planning, not rushing the job and paying attention to the task can help keep farmers, farm workers and contractors safe.

Safety needs to be thought of from the start. If spreading slurry, tanks may need to be agitated first. This task is dangerous as highly toxic gases can be produced when the slurry is stirred. If inhaled, it can be fatal to both animals and humans. A simple safety guideline to adhere to is EVA – “Evacuate and Ventilate before you Agitate”.


Farmers must evacuate all animals and people from the shed. Warn anyone else on the farm that agitating is taking place and put up any necessary warning signs. It is important to ventilate the shed by opening all doors, feed gates and any other air outlets available. Only agitate on days when there is a good breeze to help ventilation. Agitating should be done at an upwind and ideally slurry should not rise within 30mm of slats. At this point, the slurry should be ready for the spreader. Always try to have a second person close by in case of emergencies and do not smoke or light a naked flame.


Make sure the slurry tank and tractor are in a good working order with all correct covers on the P.T.O etc. Once again, put-up warning signs before starting to take out slurry. Take care to open any manhole opening and make sure to cover once the task is completed. Be aware of the risk of a back injury if trying to lift heavy objects i.e slats in a shed.


If spreading fertiliser, aim to purchase in bulk/large bags. These can be lifted and moved with the tractors and avoid injuries from manual handling. If handling or spreading, always wear protective gloves, mask and goggles. Fertiliser can irritate the skin and eyes.

Carry out a maintenance check on the spreader before using. Check for any cracks, signs of rusting etc. Always make sure the PTO shaft, cover, chains, and O guard are in good condition. Oil and grease accordingly.

A fertiliser spreader is considered a high-risk machine for crushing, particularly when attaching the 3-point linkage. Always make sure the machine is positioned on a stable base, use quick attach mechanisms (if present) and ensure the tractor hand brake is on before leaving the cab. Only use tractor controls when people are safely away from the crush zones, and never allow an inexperienced worker near the machine.

With all forms of spreading fertiliser, driver competence and experience is important. Tractors and machines can overturn on steep or level ground. If there are any slopes, the farmer should walk it beforehand and avoid travelling on steep ground.

FRS Farm Relief

Care needs to be taken at all times when farming and we encourage farmers to avail of extra help when needed. FRS Farm Services provide a range of services including reliable farm aid to help during busy periods. Contact your local FRS Farm Relief office for more information, call 1890 790 890 or visit

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